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Teachers, what is the average age at which children learn how to blend phonic sounds?

(37 Posts)
Teuchtermam Thu 27-Jun-13 15:48:01

I have a Dd who has recently turned 3. She has known the sounds letters make for quite a while now but doesn't understand blending at all. She will say c-o-t, cup or something else random.

However, you only need to show her a word once or twice for her to know what it says but that's not much good for figuring out new words. So my question is, is she too young to understand blending or should I make an effort to teach her? She is very interested and wants to learn.

Thanks in advance for replies

Tiggles Sun 30-Jun-13 19:44:46

DS1 learnt to read by blending just before his 3rd birthday - he knew all his phonics before then e.g. ch, sh etc not just single letters. But he learnt to read so quickly he was really learning words by sight, and he pretty much lost his phonic blending skills. By 5 he was reading books like Harry Potter. His spelling is now dire, as he didn't get the solid phonics grounding in school, and he can't remember the phonics he learnt at 2. He does however how Aspergers (form of Autism) which may explain why he learnt to read so early - letters were always an obsession with him.

DS2 is (fortunately) an October birthday. He wasn't even interested in letters until about this time of year when he was in nursery. That would have been a problem I guess if he was a couple of months older as that would have been nearly at the end of his reception year. As soon as he became interested in letters, he also worked out how to blend them. So his nursery (attached to the school) started sending home reading books. By the first half term of reception he was doing reading and writing with year 1. He is now finishing year 1 and is reading with year 3.

DS3 (September birthday) was always vaguely interested in letters, he learnt some simple phonics when he was at nursery (early entitlement) not attached to school. But he couldn't blend them and couldn't hear the sounds in words. We played lots of eye spy and he gradually got to be able to distinguish the first sound in words. But it wasn't until later again that he could then blend them back together. Bizarrely he could then write words before he could technically read them. School nursery started giving him reading books around Easter time, and he can now happily read the first level of books, and is quickly picking up new phonemes like sh, ch etc, but at nowhere near the rate that DS1 and DS2 picked them up.

Periwinkle007 Sun 30-Jun-13 14:07:00

and of course they have both used exactly the same books and had exactly the same input.

Periwinkle007 Sun 30-Jun-13 14:06:35

yep my 2 are very different.

DD1 would spell out C A T and then just say c a t c a t and look at me blankly. so I would say the letters quicker to make cat and she would look surprised, read it and move on. she learned words on seeing them only once or twice so whilst I did my best to get her to decode them it didn't really work. she can now decode pretty well but when she meets long complex new words we do get problems, partly because she sees the letters in the wrong order (she has coloured glasses which help but don't solve the problem completely).

DD2 probably has absorbed all my constant repetition of sounding words out and seems to do it very easily. She has learned quite a few words by sight as well but her memory and brain are obviously very different to her sister's.

Teuchtermam Sun 30-Jun-13 13:47:56

That's interesting Periwinkle, goes to show children learn differently even in the same family. Dd finds whole words come easily to her so we are continuing with answering her questions for the mean time and blending will come when she is ready. Ds may find blending easier when he is older.

Periwinkle007 Sun 30-Jun-13 13:34:46

very unusual for them to start school reading and I would expect that most who do are those who find it easy to learn whole words rather than blend to a high level. my daughter was reading when she started but she read by whole words and struggled with blending for a while (has visual processing problems), out of the children we know there was one who could read a bit and the others were still at phonics stage. by the end of reception some of the ones who couldn't read anything were up on book band 9/10 confidently, the one who could read a bit was on something like 6 and my daughter was starting on chapter books. Don't know about the others, they seemed spread out anywhere from levels 1-11 as far as I know. I think blending is definitely developmental. my youngest starts in september and she is quite good at blending short words but we haven't taught her things like ai or ae or any of those so she only knows the basic phonics and ch sh th etc. she may pick up a bit more by september, not sure but otherwise she won't be starting much different to the others in the class. she doesn't learn whole words so much although she has picked up quite a few.

Teuchtermam Sun 30-Jun-13 13:13:26

Exactly prettybird, I think forcing a child to read earlier than they are ready is like forcing a baby to walk before it's ready. Daft and can't be done. However, as Dd is showing a lot of interest, we are just trying to encourage her at her own pace. I do believe that sounding out is a developmental thing though, and will happen when she is ready - likely around 5ish.

prettybird Sun 30-Jun-13 12:58:37

Tuechtermam - we looked in to getting ds into Hutchie (before we realised that the school we wanted ds to go to was actually our catchment school and we weren't going to have to do a placing request after all). He "failed" the entrance "assessments" (which they claimed to be looking at potential rather than current capabilities hmm) - but we actually expected that when, at the 2nd assessment, we saw people cramming their kids and getting them to practice reading before going in. We looked at them like this shock as ds at the time (not long turned 4) knew the letter "MMMM" (first letter his name) and that was about it. We hadn't been pushing him to read as we thought that when he got to school would be plenty of time.

As it happens, I'm glad he didn't get in to Hutchie as I don't think that he would have got the support he got at his (state) primary school, nor the understanding that he just wasn't yet ready to read. And as he is now in the top sets for both English and Maths at secondary, ultimately it was their loss and our wallet's gain grin

Teuchtermam Sun 30-Jun-13 11:20:51

Thanks for replies, everyone.

That's an interesting point about the real life average and the average on here.

I did wonder how many children started school reading as, from a quick look around this forum, you could easily assume that most 5 year olds are fluent readers having started school reading when in fact in real life, as people have said here, it is very unusual and not even one child per reception/p1 class is a pre-school reader.

LiegeAndLief Sat 29-Jun-13 23:00:57

lastnightidreamt, we read to my ds every day from very young. He loved it, and would keep bringing us books to read for literally hours. He could recite quite long picture books by heart when he was 2-3.

He didn't blend until about 4.5 and brought home his first ever reading scheme book in the first week of Y1.

He was a free reader by Easter of Y2.

This had taught me that every child learns at their own pace when they ar ready, and I'm going to be much more chilled out about dc2!

prettybird Fri 28-Jun-13 21:35:47, teachers are just there to help when the little tykes ones are ready! grin

lastnightidreamt Fri 28-Jun-13 21:11:30


No, I just don't understand how I can have tried everything with zero success! At least the teachers have managed to drag a bit of intelligence out of them grin

RobotBananas Fri 28-Jun-13 20:59:03

DS didn't get it til he was 5. A year later and he was free reading. There's a huge variation.

TwasBrillig Fri 28-Jun-13 20:55:21

Last night -sorry wasn't at all suggesting they should be! Just trying to point out that from reading mumsnet you could believe its normal to be able to read before starting school. It really isn't.

MrsMelons Fri 28-Jun-13 20:41:17

I know a YR teacher and they said most years no children can actually read when starting school, she said they get quite excited when one can and weirdly it is often boys but she said the girls seem to take over very quickly.

lastnightidreamt Fri 28-Jun-13 20:38:45

twasbrillig I have read to all of my DCs every day since they were under 1, and not one of them has known a single letter/sound/phonic before starting school, let alone blending!

I have tried confused

prettybird Fri 28-Jun-13 20:30:43

Just to clarify: P1 is roughly the equivalent of Reception (although on average the children are about 6 months older), so P2 equals Y1.

TwasBrillig Fri 28-Jun-13 20:12:10

Average for mumsnet is different to average remember! A ridiculously high number of children start school not really having been read to at home etc.

zingally Fri 28-Jun-13 19:37:47

Most "average" ability children are sounding out and blending reasonably well by the end of Reception year.

By the end of Year 1, virtually all are. In my experience, only children heading towards the SEN list still have no clue by the end of year 1.

MrsMelons Fri 28-Jun-13 19:20:41

I am not sure if people exaggerate on here but if anyone mentions a gifted child they are generally flamed!!

Teuchtermam Fri 28-Jun-13 15:24:10

Thanks everyone for replies, you've been very helpful.

We did try sounding out correctly but it just didn't click with Dd so for the moment we will carry on with telling her what a word says when she asks.

We will return to sounding out in a year or two as it looks from the thread as if the average is 4 to 5ish, and Dd just isn't ready.

I'm sure with enough repetition, she'll get it when she's older. There is absolutely no hurry of course, we were just interested, that's all. Dd will start primary school in Scotland in Aug 2015.

About the joke earlier, do some people have a habit of exaggerating on here or something? Sorry I'm new!

jgjgjg Fri 28-Jun-13 12:59:30

My understanding is that it's a developmental thing. You can keep exposing them to sounds etc but fundamentally it will just 'click' at some point. A relative (who is a qualified speech therapist) reckons that 5 is the average age for that 'click' but it is often delayed in children who have any kind of speech or language delay.

MrsMelons Fri 28-Jun-13 10:19:55

It varies hugely. DS1 could blend any phonetically built words, however long, before he was 3 but with DS2, he knew all the sounds within a half-term of starting school but it did not really click until november time when he was 4.7. He would be saying c-a-t but just could not hear what word it was supposed to be. I think it is practice for most and comes naturally for a minority.

Fuzzymum1 Fri 28-Jun-13 10:12:33

Some children start school blending (my youngest was just beginning to blend in the summer holidays when he was 4.5 - he excitedly came in the house saying "it says J E T on the hose, that says jet" and there are children at the end of year one at the moment who are just getting there with blending - I would say some time during reception year is normal but later isn't unusual.

prettybird Thu 27-Jun-13 22:03:44

Snowfedup - ds' school said that some kids (especially boys) are just not developmentally ready until they are 6 (ds was just 6.5). He had 6 weeks of 1:1 support from the depute head in Term 1 of P2 before we all agreed he should drop to the middle language group for the sake of his confidence. He stayed there for three (?) years (think it was until P5) before moving back up to the top group and thriving.

The most important thing is that he enjoys reading - he is a boy who free reads even if it is not as much as I would like grin This evening he came and proudly told me that he had just spent an hour reading "Catching Fire" (? - the 2nd book in the Hunger Games trilogy) and saying what a good book it was.

One thing the primary school said was to encourage them to read anything - in ds' case, he wanted to see the football scores, so he tried to read them. he then got into Captain Underpants and progressed on to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Skulduggery Pleasant and now the Humger Games. He was doing Shakespeare at school this year shock (A Midsummer's Night Dream) and Beowulf!

Snowfedup Thu 27-Jun-13 21:39:00

Thank you pretty bird you have made me feel soooo much better my ds just finished p1 and hasn't got phonics at all he has just been learning the words by sight no matter how hard I try, while others in his class are reading fluently by themselves, I was getting a bit diheartened, here's hoping he picks it up better next year !

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